Andrew Taylor

Turf wars in Las Vegas: City in Ruins, by Don Winslow, reviewed

So you’d like to borrow half-a-billion dollars? It’s a tribute to the epic ambitions of this novel that the reader swallows questions like this without blinking. In a sense that’s fair enough because City in Ruins is the third book of a trilogy loosely modelled on the great poems of the classical world, particularly the

Heavies in a new light

Let’s hear it for the heavies, the unsung heroes of noir crime fiction on page and screen. The genre would collapse without them. Without the threatened or actual violence they so selflessly provide, the streets would not be mean and a private eye’s career would be only slightly less risky than an estate agent’s. Yet

Why are crime writers so weird?

What a weird lot crime writers are. I don’t come to this conclusion lightly, since I’m a crime writer myself, but on the evidence of this magisterial but wickedly entertaining book the conclusion is inescapable. As you turn the pages, the evidence mounts up. One crime writer has been considered a serious candidate for sainthood

Glasgow gangsters: 1979, by Val McDermid, reviewed

Like a basking shark, Val McDermid once remarked, a crime series needs to keep moving or die. The same could be said of crime writers themselves, who work in a genre that has an inbuilt tendency to encourage repetition, often with dreary results in the long term. McDermid herself, however, has a refreshing habit of

A choice of classic crime fiction

A guide to reading in lockdown. My involvement with crime and mystery fiction started when I was four. The first book I remember reading for myself was Hurrah for Little Noddy. As Enid Blyton aficionados will know, this is the second in the series about a self-absorbed wooden doll. It’s a thrilling tale about a

Light and dark | 1 August 2019

Few biographies are quite as impressive as Yukio Mishima’s. One of Japan’s most famous authors, he wrote 80 plays and 25 novels, starred in movies, directed theatre and produced his own film. He was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He founded a right-wing militia to defend the emperor from Marxists and,

Three’s a crowd | 6 June 2019

‘I am very, very pleased,’ murmured Queen Victoria in 1895, when she dubbed Henry Irving, Britain’s first theatrical knight. He and Ellen Terry, who so often played opposite him, were international celebrities. Bram Stoker was their intimate friend and associate. He managed Irving’s Lyceum Theatre for 27 years and spent much of his career in

The nanny’s tale

Jill Dawson has a taste for murder. One of her earlier novels, the Orange shortlisted Fred and Edie, fictionalised the 1922 Bywaters and Thompson murder case. More recently, The Crime Writer cunningly blended an English episode from the life of Patricia Highsmith with elements of one of Highsmith’s own crime novels. Now Dawson has turned

Goodbye to Berlin | 28 March 2019

Philip Kerr’s first Bernie Gunther novel, March Violets, was published 30 years ago. From the start, the format was a winner: take a cynical, wisecracking private eye modelled on Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and transplant him to Nazi Germany. Metropolis is the 14th in the series and unfortunately, since the untimely death of its

The root of all evil

The love of money, says St Paul, is the root of all evil. The Snakes makes much the same point. The novel is Sadie Jones’s fourth, and the first to be set in the present. It’s the story of Bea and Dan, a nice young couple who are struggling to make the repayments on their

The mask of death | 17 January 2019

Here is a novel set in the no man’s land between past and present, a fertile and constantly shifting territory whose precise boundaries are unique for each reader. Its author, Jeff Noon, is probably best known for his intellectually adventurous science fiction (his first novel, Vurt, won the Arthur C. Clarke award) and also, to

Kidnapped by Kett

Tombland is not to be treated lightly. Its length hints at its ambitions. Here is a Tudor epic disguised as a historical crime novel. C.J. Sansom’s ‘Shardlake’ series, of which this is the seventh episode, deals with the activities of a hunchbacked lawyer in the 1530s and 1540s. The bloated old king is now dead,

A meditation on history

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a serious novel must be in want of a theme. Paris Echo soon makes it clear that it has several. It’s about the shifting nature of history and the mysterious footprints of the past in the present. It’s also concerned with the myriad and biased interpretations that we